Jetting off on the 19th of OCT 2019, a sense of excitement, nervousness and happiness filled me. Research paper presentations are very scary, and boy was I scared!
Travelling to a different country, to present your ideas, challenge established theories and come up with new experiments to overcome current limitations of research puts an unparalleled pressure on you. But the pay off is unmatched, and the satisfaction post-presentation gives you a spiritual kind of bliss.
The International Astronautical Congress 2019 was the conference I was presenting at, in the SETI session. Looking through the list of presenters, I saw how in-depth the research being presented was. This naturally made me question my own work. I started to make last-minute changes, look for better ways to modify my work and in short, started to freak out!
Often we don’t realise that moderate pressure and second-guessing can be effective. At least in my case, it was. I thoroughly modified the work I was presenting on and started to get into the details of each modification. The paper acquired a structure I was finally happy with.
Although the proposition of the paper and the proposed experiment was a tad bit controversial, I must say it was well-received, and every person who spoke to me post-presentation was very accepting of what I had to say.
The IAC gave me a platform I otherwise could not have even dreamed off. The people sitting in my session were all stalwarts whose work I had used and quoted in my paper. To have them sit there and listen to me was intimidating and very exciting. They not only stayed till the very end of the session but also gave me feedback on my work, gave me insights on how to move forward and showed me new ways of using my research.
The session I was presenting in was on the second day of the conference. The first day was just the opening ceremony, some introductory and plenary talks, lectures, and a few technical sessions. The opening ceremony had VP Mike Pence give a speech, the NASA administrators say a few words but most importantly the crew of Apollo 11 been given an honour for the competition of 50 years of the mission. The highlight for me was to watch Buzz Aldrin give a short and sweet speech! It was inspiring to watch the man who walked on the moon talk about helping ARTEMIS, the next major NASA program. For him to still be working, and be involved is motivating for us to do better research, work hard and provide for the future.
On days 3 and 4, I explored the exhibition!
Yes, it took me two whole days to check out the stalls and all the crazy space equipment put out on display. It was like walking into a sci-fi movie. Having spent two whole days there, I still hadn’t tried all the fun stuff like the mars race by Lockheed Martin, the space simulator. It was probably because of all the lines and crowd, But I was able to get the whole experience!
Every person there was there to create change. They were all passionate and curious about something that drove them towards the goal of reaching out for the stars. Being there reassured me of my place in the galaxy! Of why I was passionate and why space excited me.
My biggest takeaway was – It is ok to not know everything and be completely unaware if you are ready to learn and absorb. For someone curious about learning, any forum with academic outreach will resonate with you and your work. Be prepared to unlearn and re-learn every step of the way and knowledge will seek you out. Be grateful for every opportunity and thankful for the good things that come your way.
I can’t wait to go back and experience IAC again and again!
Let’s go Dubai 2020 !